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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Kiss of The Ghostbuster by Diana McCollum

     The damn ghost had kept Shelby wide-awake most of the night.  Its quiet litany of sing-song indistinguishable words, and the fleeting cold air that crept into her room had been tolerable, but two nights ago when vases and knickknacks started flying off the shelves, the spirit was more of a nuisance than she was willing to put up with.
     This ghost wasn’t like O’Henry, the jolly ghost that had co-habited with Aunt Maggie all those years ago.  Shelby and Cousin Anna used to set food out for him in hopes of catching a glimpse of the elusive spirit.  They never saw O’Henry, just heard his footsteps.  Aunt Maggie had always reassured them that he was a friendly old sea captain and wouldn’t harm them.
     The uniqueness of having her own singing ghost had dissolved with the shattered pottery.  Today she was calling for help.
It’s not that she was scared of the entity, she wasn’t.  She’d lived with it since moving to Bend, OR, last month and purchasing the more than one-hundred and fifty year old house.  But enough was enough already.  She had a demanding job as a nurse in the ICU at the hospital.  She needed her rest.
“Okay Misty” Shelby said.  She’d given the ghost a pet name as it had only showed itself to her in the form of mist, “The time has come that you’ve over stayed your welcome.”
She put on her bathrobe and pounded down the stairs to the kitchen.  The smell of the freshly brewed pot of coffee met her as she rounded the kitchen counter.  Sliding a mug over to the automatic coffee pot, she poured the hot, black liquid into her cup.  After several swallows, she pulled the phone book over and thumbed through the pages.
So I wonder if there is a Ghost Buster in town.  What should I look under, exterminator, ghost buster…?  Well, well this looks promising: Huntley’s Spectral Mediator.
She dialed the number and waited, counting the rings.  Two, three, four and the answering machine picked up.
“You’ve reached the voice mail for “Huntley’s Spectral Mediator”, L.C. Huntley speaking.  If you have an unwanted entity or ghost you have dialed the correct number.  We work hard at customer satisfaction.  You and your ghost both deserve a satisfying resolution.  Remember, ghosts are people too.  Leave your name, number and a brief description of your unwanted guest.  We’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

The doorbell jarred Shelby awake.  She sat up on the couch and rubbed the kink in her neck.  She had only meant to close her eyes for a moment.  Peeking out the window, she saw a small, boxy, neon green car, a Honda Element to be exact.  The shrink-wrap advertisement on the side read Let us put your spirit to rest.
Hopefully this isn’t a quack.  She opened the door to reveal a man about thirtyish years old, with thick, dark-brown curly hair, wearing designer sunglasses and a black t-shirt emblazoned with the company slogan Ghosts are people too!
He looked up from his clipboard and did a double take.  Sliding his glasses down his nose apparently for a better look he said “Shelby?  Shelby Sawyer?”
She noted his blue-gray eyes and the quizzical look he gave her.  “Yes…no, I mean I was Shelby Sawyer, but one marriage and divorce later I’m Shelby Stein.  You don’t look familiar, do I know you?”
He chuckled, slipped his sunglasses off and stuck them in his shirt pocket.  “You don’t remember your senior ball at Rancho Vega High School?  I invited you and you kept me hanging till the last minute and then turned me down.”
“I don’t know any L.C. Huntley.  Wait,  L.C., are you Lester Huntley?”  Oh, God, this was awkward.
“That would be me in the flesh and blood.”  He had a cocky smile plastered on his face and he winked.
Her senior year her boyfriend of three years broke up with her right before the senior ball.  Lester, the class geek, had stepped up to the plate and asked her to be his date.  She put off answering him in the hopes Bill would come to his senses, which he eventually did.  At that time in her life the last person she wanted to be seen with was the class geek, with his thick glasses and unruly curly hair.  Back then, it was all about looks and cliques.  She hated her old self for being so shallow.
“Please come in.”  Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad hiring him, after all they were adults now.
As he walked through the open door, he grabbed a pen from the top of his clipboard and began writing.
“Tell me about the spirit haunting your house.  On a scale of one to ten, ten being the worse possible scenario, where does your ghost land?”
“Up until last night, I’d have said two.  Then the activity escalated to throwing vases.  I’d say eight now.”
Lester drew a graph on his paper.  “And where has it manifested itself?”
Shelby walked to the stairwell. “It’s a mist that glides down the stairs and in front of this bare wall in the hallway.  When it passes by me the temperature drops about twenty degrees.   I can’t really make out the words, but it’s singing.  I named it Misty, because it looks like mist.”
“Sounds like the ghost knows you can hear it.  Not everyone could.  That’s probably why the entity has started to escalate its behavior.  Its got unfinished business before it can rest in peace.”  His forehead puckered.  “I’ll need to set up my equipment during the time the entity is most active.  And that would be…?”  He glanced up.
“Between ten pm and two am and what kind of equipment are we talking about?”  She tilted her head to one side.  Lester had definitely changed from the shy geeky teenager she remembered.  He wasn’t handsome, but good looking in a rugged sort of way.  Same curly brown hair, growing past his ears, and his thick glasses were gone so he must have gotten contacts.
“Oh, the usual, tri-pod, lazer-grid machine, temp gauge, and an EMF and EM field output gauge and recorder.   We want to get a picture of your ghost and figure out who we’re dealing with.”  He looked directly at her with laughing eyes. “Are you available for the next few evenings?”
“Yes I am.  I just got off my shift.  I work four, ten hour days and then I’m off for three days.”  A shiver raced up her spine.  She wasn’t sure if she wanted to confront an angry ghost.  “So I’ll be your assistant?”
“More or less.  The ghost is attached to your house and therefore attached to you.  There have been cases where once attached, the spirit follows the host to another location.  The spirit knows and uses the energy from a person with mediumistic qualities.”  He tapped his pencil on the tablet.  “Most spirits have either experienced a violent death, or have unresolved issues here on earth.”
“What are you saying?  I have mediumistic qualities?”  She wasn’t even sure what that meant.
“Could be, considering the last owners never saw the ghost.”
“How do you know that?”
“I always do research before taking on a new client.”
“Then we have a deal?  You’ll get rid of the ghost?”  She couldn’t believe she was hiring Lester, the geek, the guy she stood up in high school.
“We’ll help the ghost move on.  You and me, teamwork.”  He stuck out his hand and they shook on it.

Two nights later Lester was feeling pretty good, ghost or no ghost.  Misty was a no-show, but that was fine by him.  He adjusted the tri-pod and red grid lines splayed across the wall.  When Shelbylious brought him a second cup of coffee, their hands brushed and attraction sizzled between them.  Maybe the universe was giving him a second chance with Shelby.
“Any significant other in your life right now?”  He asked.  He took a sip of coffee.
“No.  After the divorce last year I took a leave from the dating scene, not ready for that.”
      Shelby fingered a strand of hair that had escaped her pony tail.  She hadn’t changed much physically, but she wasn’t so egotistical and more down to earth.  He liked this new Shelby.  They had chatted and caught up over the last few nights.
She grabbed his arm. “Misty’s coming!”
An uncanny feeling came over him.  He set the mug down.  “Steady, be quiet.”  He aimed the EMF recorder towards the mist gliding down the stairs and sucked in his breath as it gathered at the bottom.  The sing-song voice started and the form drifted over in front of the wall.  The grid machine put the mist into a three-D image projected on the wall.
“The ghost’s a woman.”  Shelby whispered in his ear.
“This footage will be awesome!”  Lester whispered back.
The woman worked her hands in a rubbing motion, continuing in her sing-song voice, her attire was from the eighteen hundreds and her hair was pulled back in a severe bun.
The cold air engulfed them and he glanced at Shelby just in time to see her eyes roll back in her head.  He caught her before she hit the floor.
He tapped the button on the voice recorder and cradled Shelby up against him.
She started coming around and he lowered her to the wooden chair.  Another entity entered the grid lines, a man brandishing a club in a threatening manner. He whacked the woman on the head.  He yelled something at the crumpled form of the woman.  Before leaving the ghost knocked over a lamp.  With incredible speed the entity glided over to Lester and gave a soundless, open mouth scream right in Lester’s face.
Shelby jumped when the lamp hit the floor.  He reached down pulling her up gathering her into his embrace. She clutched hold of his shirt burying her face against his chest.  He breathed in the smell of her hair.  It was like a spring day, all warm and flowery. Surely she could hear the loud drumming in his heart.  His voice husky he said, “That was some show.”  Slowly he undid her hands and walked over to flip on the light switch.
“Misty died a violent death.”  He said.  “I’ll take the voice recorder back to my lab and see what she was singing.  That might give us an idea how to help her.”  He paused.  “The second entity, a poltergeist is the one with violent tendencies.”
“Two ghosts?”  Shelby’s voice went an octave higher.  “Can I go with you?  I don’t want to stay here.”  Her voice trembled.
“You can come, but I have an assignment for you.  In the morning I want you to go to the library and see what you can find out about the residents of this house in the eighteen hundreds.”

The next day Shelby waited anxiously for Lester to arrive.  She had really gotten to know Lester over the last few days, and she liked him a lot.  Last night at his lab he had reassured her that they would rid the house of the spirits, both of them.  And, gosh, he had kissed her and it felt so good.
She heard his car and ran to open the door.
He was already leaning on the door frame with a lopsided grin on his face.           “What did you find out?”
“I think the woman is Ella Frantz, a servant who after miscarrying her baby was accused of stealing, and killed.  The wife suspected the baby was her husbands and his name was…”
“Edward Coultan.”  He finished for her.
“After you left I ran the tapes through a high density filter.  Ella was singing a song she made up.  I think by that point she was insane from heartbreak.  The song told of Edward forcing himself on her and kicking her in the stomach when she told him she was carrying his child.  When she lost the baby, Ella decided to tell Edward’s wife the truth. He murdered her.  She was buried in a prison graveyard.”
“So how do we make this right?”
“We find her grave and have it moved into the church graveyard with the respectable dead.”  He spoke as if this was an everyday occurrence.  “Edward will have no choice but to cross over to Hell without Ella here to relive the tragedy with him every night.”

Shelby felt so good.  Lester had rid the house of the ghosts!  Last night was the best sleep she had had in a couple of weeks.  He’d be here anytime for his check, payment for a job well done.  This afternoon she had baked a pan of brownies for him as a tip.  He had told her during one of their late night conversations, that brownies were his favorite dessert.
The doorbell rang and she pulled the door open. Lester stood there with a bunch of lilies tied with a purple ribbon in one arm, a bouquet of roses in the other, and a silly looking grin on his face.
“Two bouquets?”  She quizzed.
“I thought maybe you’d go with me to see Ella and put the lilies on her grave.”  He took a deep breath, and his forehead puckered.  “The roses are for you.  Will you have dinner with me?”
“Yes, but only if we can come back here for dessert.”  She accepted the roses.
“You bet!”  He pulled her close with his free arm and kissed her thoroughly.
      Shelby hoped dessert would be more than the pan of brownies sitting on the counter.

                                                       The End

© 2012 Diana McCollum


  1. Hi Diana, I'm wondering if the part of the inspiration for this story comes from your tour of the underground tunnels in Portland?

    And, I'm hoping Shelby and Lester have more than brownies for dessert!

  2. I love ghost stories that aren't gruesome! Nicely done!

  3. Loved it! Wanted to read more!

  4. I enjoyed your lighthearted approach to this ghost story!